Kim Henderson: I just like to hang out

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Friday, August 16th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Megan Basham.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. To be hung out to dry is to be left without help when you really need it.

That’s not the meaning we’re about to talk about. 

No, this is about a practice that’s pretty unusual these days, hanging out your laundry to dry.

But as WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson says, this old routine is a comforting one.


Reach. Grab. Sling. Pin.

I can get lost in the rote rhythm, but why would anyone in an age of polyester and dewrinkle settings want to? Use a clothesline, that is? Good question, especially when it’s coming from a friend who lives in a suburban neighborhood. Covenants would keep her from erecting one even if she wanted to.

But the plain truth is this: I just like to hang out.

It’s not a desire to be eco-chic or even the hope of saving lots of money. My gas man set me straight on those economics a long time ago. One day as he skirted past flapping sheets on the way to our propane tank, he called out, “You know, you’d do better to cut back on your oven use.”

I didn’t bother to explain to him just how unlikely that was, with seven seated around our table. But thinking back, curtailing my oven usage might have been easier. Easier than trying to explain to him what I don’t really understand myself.

That I like lugging laundry to the backyard where there’s grass and sun and a cat that’s glad to see me.

That I think wooden clothespins have aesthetic value.

That getting four loads hung out by noon makes me feel, well, productive.

And it helps that I have a husband who champions any effort to cut down on utility costs. He considers the stiffness of line-dried towels a value equal to that of a loofah sponge. “It’s multitasking,” he reasons. “We dry and exfoliate at the same time.” 

Naturally, some days this line-drying business is a chore we do without, thanks to Whirlpool. Other days, though, it is a satisfaction. Like a couple of weeks ago as I took in the sight of whites waving in the wind. They were strangely juxtaposed between an old barn and a new-fangled fire pit in our backyard.

Funny how it’s the clothesline bridging the middle of that scene that represents a life luxury – time. Time to fashion a domestic diorama out of pinpoint cotton and a pair of pillowcases. Time for talks under a stand of five stretched-out strands. When words are spoken through teeth gripping an extra clothespin and instructions are given (again) about hanging from the hem.

My friend, the one with the covenants, could probably appreciate that aspect. She did, in fact, listen politely. I nostalgically described how an orderly row of just-hung socks can represent a day’s fresh start. But when I gave her the “it’s humble work, beautiful in its simplicity” line of logic, I lost her.

She sputtered: “So, help me understand. If you’re not saving much money and you’re not going green, then you’re doing this for . . .for . . . ?”

Hmmm. Well, I guess I’m doing this for . . . me.

So, yeah, I’m coming clean. Some folks have comfort foods. Some have Instagram feeds.

I have a clothesline.

Reach. Grab. Sling. Pin.

Reach. Grab. Sling. Pin.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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